Era: The Original Series, Season 1
Series: Vanguard (#2)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2006
Despite the shocking loss of the USS Bombay, the crew of Starbase 47 continue their mission to uncover the secrets of the meta-genome. But while the threat of Klingon or Tholian aggression is clear, a new power is making its way to the Taurus Reach . . .
The second book of the epic Vanguard series picks up soon after the first, and now that the major players have been introduced, you could be forgiven for expecting things to have settled down. That’s not the case. The competing investigations of the Federation, Klingons and Tholians are established, but in the opening chapters of Summon the Thunder, Ward and Dilmore introduce a new faction. The Romulan Star Empire has arrived on the scene, and are (as usual) up to no good. Having recently read the Romulan War series, it’s interesting to see the Romulans at this stage in the series. In-universe, no one in the Federation even knows what they look like at this point (‘Balance of Terror’ being a little while after this book takes place), so the usual excessive secretiveness of the Star Empire really gets played up. At the same time, we get a good look inside the heads of Romulan commanders.
But while the individual Romulan scenes are handled very well, at this stage their involvement only serves to muddy the already murky waters. There are a lot of factions at play already, and the Romulans joining the party feels like something that would be held back as a big reveal in another series. Instead we have yet another group to keep track of early in the day, and it’s getting hard to keep up. This far in, that is my only real complaint about Vanguard. There are so many strands pulling in different directions, it’s hard to tell what the overall story is. The individual story-lines are great, but there’s a lack of cohesion overall. This might be down to the number of authors involved, or it could all become clear later. Nothing that’s happened so far is enough to drive me away, but I’m not yet seeing why this series is held to such a phenomenal standard by many fans.
As someone who’s much more familiar with the TNG era of Star Trek, I also have issues visualising the uniforms and technology oh TOS. None of this is the book’s fault, of course, but every time I see a description of command-yellow or security-red, I do a small double-take and remind myself when this book is set. Clearly the best solution is to watch some classic Star Trek. On a related note, I’m having a great deal of fun imagining this series being acted out with the special effects of the sixties, weird energy shapes and all. Stupid, I know, but it really does add something to the book to fully lean into the period it’s emulating.
While I didn’t enjoy Summon the Thunder as much as Harbinger, there is still a lot to like here, and I’m eager to read more of the series.